Manufacturing Good News

Pharmaceuticals, recovering, are now up 5.1% despite dragging the entire manufacturing down by 8.2% a few months ago.  In 2009, the bulk of the layoffs were from manufacturing (59.0% or 13,400 people). With the recovery and an increase in global demand for Singapore’s exports, it might mean more jobs for lower income production line workers if they want to keep up the supply.  Whether it is 39.4% growth on-year or 11.4% growth comparing December and January, it is manufacturing good news. Read it the way you want it.

Singapore’s Jan manufacturing output up 39.4% on-year
26 February 2010 1700 hrs (SST)

SINGAPORE: Singapore’s manufacturing output continued to rise in January, trouncing economists’ expectations, mainly due to a low base and better external demand, particularly from regional countries.

Data released on Friday by the Economic Development Board (EDB) showed manufacturing output rose 39.4 per cent on-year, almost four times higher than economists’ expectations for a 10.3 per cent on-year increase.

This is also seen as the fastest pace of growth since records first began in 1983.

Compared to the previous month, output increased by 11.8 per cent, though it would have risen by just 0.8 per cent if biomedical manufacturing was excluded.

The largest increase came from the electronics cluster, which turned in a strong growth of 80.6 per cent in January year-on-year.

EDB said this was due to higher demand for chips used in consumer electronics, coupled with the low base last year when the global economic downturn depressed demand for electronics.

Output of the biomedical manufacturing cluster increased 48.4 per cent, with pharmaceuticals gaining 51.1 per cent on the back of higher production of active pharmaceutical ingredients.

Output of the general manufacturing industries increased by 20.2 per cent in January, with all segments within the cluster registering positive growth.

However, the transport engineering cluster declined by 13.4 per cent on-year, with all segments falling except the land transport segment.

Output of the aerospace segment inched down 0.9 per cent, while the marine and offshore engineering segment contracted 26.7 per cent on the back of a lower percentage of completion for marine and offshore projects and fewer ship conversion projects.

Analysts said the strong numbers suggest that global demand is picking up, which will be good news for the export-oriented economy.’

“I think the prognosis continues to be good because manufacturing in Singapore will be buffered by capacity additions this year,” said Leong Wai Ho, director and senior regional economist at Barclays Capital.

“We’ve just seen Shell introduce its S$3 billion dollar plant in Jurong Island, and we are likely to see more capacity additions, in the pharma sector namely in the biologics base.

“I think this reflects the pattern of recovery we’re seeing across Asia, but it seems to us that this path of recovery will be a rather uneven recovery.”

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Election Budget?

Now this extract below, which is from 2006, is an election budget. The one yesterday, if it was an election budget, is a very bold departure from past populist practices of giving candies left, right and centre. The writing is not yet on the wall whether there will be an election this year.

Key Budget Initiatives
Sharing the Fruits of Growth: Progress Package

The Government is sharing its budget surpluses with all Singaporeans. The Progress Package will benefit everyone, but will provide more benefits to those who have lower incomes. The Progress Package will cost the Government $2.6 billion.

Growth Dividends for All Adult Singaporeans
All adult Singaporeans will get Growth Dividends ranging from $200 to $800. Close to half of all adult Singaporeans will get the maximum $800.

Annual Value of Home $6,000 or less Annual Value of Home more than $6,000 and up to $10,000 Annual Value of Home more than $10,000
Annual Assessable Income $24,000 or less $800 $600 $200
Annual Assessable Income more than $24,000 $600 $400

Workfare Bonus to Reward Low-Wage Workers for Work
Low-wage Singaporeans who earn $1,500 or less per month through regular work will receive Workfare Bonuses ranging from $150 to $1,200 in two portions.

Average Monthly Income Bonus to be paid on 1st May, 2006 and 2007*
$400 and below 1.5 months salary, or $75, whichever is higher
Above $400 to $900 $600
Above $900 to $1,200 $400
Above $1,200 to $1,500 $200

* Bonus to be paid in 2006 for working at least 6 continuous months in 2005 and to be paid in 2007 for working at least 6 continuous months in 2006.Rebates to Help Lower-Income Households
Lower-income households will get Utilities-Save (U-Save) rebates ranging from $60 to $200. They will also continue to get rebates on up to 4 months of Service & Conservancy Charges (S&CC) and up to 3 months of rent.

HDB Flat Type U-Save Rebates S&CC Rebates Rental Rebates
1-room $200 4 months 3 months
2-room $200 3 months 1.5 months
3-room $100 2 months
4-room $80 1.5 months
5-room $60 0.5 months

CPF Top-ups to Help the Elderly meet Retirement and Healthcare Needs
Singaporeans aged 50 and above will get CPF top-ups ranging from $100 to $800 depending on the Annual Value of their homes.

Age Annual Value of Home $6,000 or less Annual Value of Home more than $6,000 and up to $10,000 Annual Value of Home more than $10,000
50- 59 $600 $400 $100
60 & above $800 $600 $200

Half of the amount will go into the CPF Special/Retirement Account and the other half into the CPF Medisave AccountThe Government will top up the Eldercare Fund and Medifund by $100 million each.

Opportunity Funds for Students
The Government will set aside $50 million for Opportunity Funds in all schools and community self-help groups, namely CDAC, MENDAKI, SINDA and the Eurasian Association, to provide students from lower-income families with more enrichment and learning opportunities, such as the purchase of computers and overseas study trips.
NS Bonus to Recognise the Contributions of NSmen
Singaporeans who are serving or who have served National Service (NS) will receive the 40th Anniversary NS Bonus.

NS status Amount
  • Full-time national servicemen (NSFs)
  • Operationally ready NSmen who have not completed their operationally ready national service (ORNS) training cycle
$100
  • NSmen who have completed their ORNS training cycle
  • NSmen who are above statutory age (i.e. 40 years old for non-officers and 50 years old for officers)
$400

In addition to this one-off NS Bonus:

  • NSmen who complete their ORNS training cycle in future will receive the ORNS Completion Award of $300.
  • NS key appointment holders will get an additional $2,000 tax relief over and above what they normally receive as NSmen.

To Sign Up for the Progress Package
Singaporeans will get a letter from the CPF Board in late March 2006 informing them of their Progress Package. To receive their Progress Package on 1 May 2006, they must sign up through ATMs, the Progress Package website or hard copy forms.

A Booster Jab for Medisave

Critics have carefully argued that with Medisave now allowed for use in selected Malaysian hospitals for outpatient and day treatment, it rightly means that Singaporeans are priced out of our own healthcare system, and that Malaysian hospitals will now reap the benefits. How the local hospitals will react is uncertain for now – will they try to compete with the 12 Malaysian healthcare providers or just let those who cannot afford cross over, after all, there are limits to Medisave usage for in Malaysia.

Digging deeper, the 12 healthcare providers might all be Malaysian subsidiaries or partners of Singapore companies. For instance, Health Management International’s Regency Specialist Hospital in Johor Baru and Mahkota Medical Centre in Malacca will be part of the Malaysian Medisave scheme, while Parkway Holdings is tying up with Gleneagles KL. A common fear, whether unfounded or not, is that potential patients are unsure of the standard of healthcare in Malaysia. Hence, such tie-ups with local brands would be some comfort to Singaporeans who head over for day surgery and perhaps a short holiday at the same time.  The tie-ups with the  Malaysian hospitals and their Singapore centres are —

Health Management International referral centre: Balestier Clinic and Health Screening Centre (221 Balestier Road, #03-04 ROCCA Balestier)
1. Regency Specialist Hospital (Johor Baru)
2. Mahkota Medical Centre (Malacca)

Parkway Holdings referral centre: East Shore Hospital (321 Joo Chiat Place)
1. Gleneagles Intan Medical Centre (Kuala Lumpur)
2. Pantai Hospital Kuala Lumpur
3. Pantai Hospital Cheras
4. Pantai Hospital Ampang
5. Pantai Hospital Klang
6. Pantai Hospital Ipoh
7. Pantai Hospital Ayer Keroh
8. Pantai Hospital Penang
9. Pantai Hospital Batu Pahat
10. Pantai Hospital Sungai Petani

Whether the Malaysian Medisave scheme is it a glass half empty or half full depends on whether we are nationalistic about healthcare or prefer choices in how money is better spent. The latter is arguably more important as Medisave is the contributors’ own money reserved for healthcare and it should not be restricted to geography. The contributor should have more say in how and where that medical purse is spent, especially if cost is a factor. If a person wants a cheaper alternative, that patient should have the right to do so. It does not necessarily mean that Singaporeans cannot afford healthcare in Singapore per se. Instead, it could suggest that Singaporeans can now choose cheaper treatment overseas as well. Choice on how to spend our own money is usually a good thing.

… but hospitalisation, day surgeries covered for now in JB, Malacca, KL

05:55 AM Feb 11, 2010
by Alicia Wong Today Online

SINGAPORE – Almost a year after the announcement was made to allow Medisave for overseas use, the Ministry of Health (MOH) revealed details yesterday of how this will be done.

From next month, Singapore residents will be allowed to use Medisave for hospitalisation and day surgeries in overseas hospitals that have an approved arrangement with a Medisave-accredited centre in Singapore.

This means that patients have to approach appointed local providers – for now, they are Health Management International (HMI) and Parkway Holdings – which will then refer these patients to the overseas hospital via the Medisave-accredited referral centre that they have each set up recently.

Each centre must assess patients before admitting them as well as provide financial counselling. It will be accountable for patient satisfaction and clinical outcomes, said MOH.

HMI will work with its two subsidiaries, Regency Specialist Hospital in Johor Baru and Mahkota Medical Centre in Malacca, while Parkway will partner nine hospitals under the Pantai group as well as the Gleneagles Intan Medical Centre in Kuala Lumpur.

Medisave, however, cannot be used for outpatient treatment overseas as “it will be harder for us to audit or regulate the general practitioners overseas”, said an MOH spokesperson.

In Singapore, patients can tap on Medisave for certain outpatient treatments, such as for chronic diseases and Hepatitis B vaccination.

The new Medisave scheme is open only to citizens and permanent residents here. Currently, Medisave can only be used overseas for emergency hospitalisation.

In his blog post yesterday, Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan said that MOH had decided to “give the idea a try, closely monitor it, and to make refinements if necessary”. “The upside is that it gives Singaporeans more choices, and presumably lower-cost choices, thus saving them money too,” he wrote.

At Parkway’s local hospitals, a total hip replacement surgery costs about $19,000, but at Pantai hospitals, it costs about RM32,000 ($13,200). At HMI’s two subsidiaries, it costs between RM15,000 and RM25,000.

“But patients must be aware of possible downsides … They should consult their family GPs for a second opinion,” cautioned Mr Khaw.

Patients’ insurance policies, or their employers’, may not cover overseas treatment, for instance.

MOH’s spokesperson added: “If the treatment leads to complications or if there are alleged medical misconduct, costs may rise, and any legal follow-up across border may be complicated.”

Other potential areas of abuse could be fraudulent claims or over-servicing by unethical doctors.

Mr Khaw doubts that subsidised patients in public hospitals will be the ones interested in taking up this latest initiative, as “there will be no cost savings for them if they go overseas”.

“But even if the scheme only benefits a small number of patients, I think it’s still worthwhile as it gives Singaporeans more choices,” he added.

According to MOH, private hospitals currently take in about 20 per cent of total hospital admissions.

Both providers have promised to ensure good clinical outcomes and high service standards.

Parkway said it is the only private healthcare provider to publish data of its clinical outcomes through its in-house publication.

Meanwhile, HMI said its two subsidiaries offer “Singapore-style management and comparable standards of nursing care” and will go undergo regular audits by MOH and the Central Provident Fund Board.

It offers door-to-door shuttle service for patients wishing to go to Regency in JB, while its Malacca subsidiary received 500 Singaporeans last year.

Company director Paul Sykes, 40, said he is looking forward to using Medisave for future treatments overseas. He had paid about $1,400 for his surgery at Regency last month. A private hospital in Singapore quoted him $3,000, he said.

While he had concerns over communication and the hospital’s competency, his fears were unfounded, said the Singapore PR. In fact, his recuperation is two weeks ahead of schedule, Mr Sykes added.

Lighthouse Alight and the Intolerance of Religions

Some time back, people in Hardwarezone starting complaining about Rony Tan the pastor criticising Buddhism.  Events escalated to the point that the Internal Security Department “persuaded” the pastor to say sorry publicly and even apologise to Venerable Kwang Sheng of the Buddhist Federation, which was solemnly accepted.

Buddhists and Christians, particularly the Lighthouse church congregation should take the cue of their leaders, but apparently they did not. This is the signal that religions are sending out to all of us, and the atheists can only smirk amongst themselves about true believers who ironically do not practice what they preach about harmony with their fellow Man.

More than ever is this the time for the Inter-Religious Organisation to boldly reclaim the ground, reign their followers and redirect inter-faith respect and harmony. If they do not, they are only doing disservice to their faiths. But one thing is certain – the intimidating Internal Security Department has shown its hand and might exert greater control of the situation for those sowing Christian-Buddhist discord despite that both faiths are trying to bury the hatchet.

Pastor’s comments on Buddhism/Taoism “inappropriate & unacceptable”: MHA

SINGAPORE: The Internal Security Department (ISD) has called up Pastor Rony Tan of Lighthouse Evangelism in connection with his comments and insinuations about Buddhism and Taoism at his church sessions.

These sessions were video-recorded and made available on Lighthouse Evangelism’s website. Video clips of these sessions subsequently became available on YouTube and other websites.

The Ministry of Home Affairs said Pastor Tan’s comments were highly inappropriate and unacceptable as they trivialised and insulted the beliefs of Buddhists and Taoists.

They can also give rise to tension and conflict between the Buddhist/Taoist and Christian communities.

ISD told Pastor Tan that in preaching or proselytising his faith, he must not run down other religions, and must be mindful of the sensitivities of other religions.

Pastor Tan has expressed his deepest apologies and remorse. He deeply regrets that he has been insensitive and offensive towards the Buddhist and Taoist faiths, and that his comments have saddened and hurt their followers.

He has promised that it will never happen again and has also affirmed that he will tell his members to respect other beliefs and build a harmonious Singapore.